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Wednesday, 21 September 2016 08:57

Unbelievable PTT

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SATURDAY 17th SEPTEMBER. Lakeside Sports Academy, sunny.
CAMBRIAN & CLYDACH BGC 2 PORT TALBOT TOWN 2 (Nathaniel Cars Welsh League Division 1)

With the main railway lines east and west out of Cardiff closed by engineering works, it's a weekend for staying local; and for avoiding the centre of Cardiff itself, which has become "City of the Unexpected" for two days, with big crowds expected to celebrate Roald Dahl's centenary. The only sensible option is to head up the valleys today.Fortunately, Tonypandy in the Rhondda presents itself as the answer: Cambrian v Port Talbot Town in the Welsh League is interesting enough, but just next door there's a delayed FAW Trophy game too. And it's there that I head first on arriving in Tonypandy, a.k.a Mid Rhondda. On the old King George's Field ground, where Cambrian themselves started out, Tonypandy Albion of the Rhondda League are meeting RTB Ebbw Vale in a 2pm kick-off, so I can watch the first 20 minutes here before going up to Cambrian's 'new' field.

The Tonypandy pitch is situated inside a wide running track. On one side, furthest from the road, five steps of terracing - recently restored, I think - run the length of the pitch, shaded from the warm sun by overhanging trees. From here, there's a view across the pitch and the road to the terraces of the Clydach Vale.

RTB, wearing green, start as favourites and are soon putting the Albion under pressure. The fairly brief part of the action I see is punctuated by some robust challenges, the worst of these perpetrated by a Tonypandy player who sees a straight red card. As he leaves the field, there's a predictable shout from the sidelines "Come on ref, you're spoiling a good game". Just after this, RTB take the lead, and I leave for my main match fairly confident that I know how the remaining 70 minutes will work out.

Up the slope to Cambrian's stadium, which seems to be listed as the Lakeside Academy now, but I have known as the King George's New Field previously. Whatever it's called, it is a ground in the process of developing into a fine stadium. Already with a 3G surface, a second seated stand has appeared since I was last here. And there'll soon be another, between the entrance gate and the near goal - a necessary development because the present seating capacity falls a frustrating 35 seats short of the new 'Tier 2' requirement. The planned new stand will take Cambrian comfortably over that, and with cover on three sides of the pitch, this will be one of the Welsh League's better venues.

Cambrian, now managed by Craig Hughes, have made a fair start to the season and are entertaining Port Talbot Town. Everything I've heard about Town recently suggests a home win today. Since demotion from the Welsh Premier, under a cloud, the Steelmen are already struggling. The odds are clearly stacked against them, and you don't need https://www.freebets.org.uk/ to tell you that Cambrian are massive favourites for the three points today. Town's band of loyal, singing fans is here though to encourage the team. Maybe not in the same numbers as previously, but they're making a noise all the same.

It soon looks as though Town may not give their followers much to cheer. They're a goal down after eight minutes, the defence standing off and allowing Jacob Matthews to curl in the opener. As the Sky Blues pepper Town's goal with shots, further goals look inevitable, especially as the visitors seem very much at odds with each other - I have rarely heard a team argue and berate each other so much, so early in a game, and over so many things. There's even a heated exchange on where the keeper should be aiming his goal kicks.

But, somehow, the second Cambrian goal does not come. And, just as unexpectedly, something seems to change in Port Talbot's approach: suddenly they're committed, contesting every ball, encouraging rather than criticising. Hard to say what triggered this - just possibly a Cambrian challenge that left central defender Remi Whitelock limping. He eventually departs, but leaves behind a team battling back into the game. And, just before half-time, a misplaced Cambrian pass gives Luke Bowen a chance to round the home keeper and equalise, to wild celebrations from the travelling fans, now basking, topless in the September sun.

The second half is more even. There are chances at both ends, but Cambrian have a frustrated, anxious look, knowing they're supposed to be winning this. Town, on the other hand, sense the chance to end their losing run. On 63 minutes, Bowen receives the ball on the right and runs with it; he weaves into the box and fires in his second goal, one of real quality. Shortly afterwards, Town almost make it three, just a touch required on the goal-line.

But Cambrian battle on. Not much is going right for them, but eventually they draw level, Cameron Keetch is picked out by a pass from the goal-line and drives the ball firmly through the yellow-shirted defence. 2-2 and both sides now go all out for a winner. We come close to seeing a winner too, at both ends, but the score remains 2-2. In all honesty, this was the only fair outcome. It would have made no sense for Cambrian, so comfortably the better side for so long, to lose. Yet Port Talbot, so committed to their cause, fully earned at least a point and did not deserve to lose. They're off the bottom of the table as a result of this point, and if they can play like this, as a team, and avoid the recriminations when things don't go their way, they might not be as doomed as so many people seem to think. Unbelievable PTT, as their fans often sing.

Read 2494 times Last modified on Wednesday, 19 October 2016 15:31

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